Wherever they go, whatever they do, the 2013 Montgomery boys basketball players always will have Jan. 22.
That is the night they recorded the district's biggest upset of the season. That is the night they stunned their archrival and accomplished something nobody outside their locker room thought possible. Montgomery beat Muncy, 68-59, and it was a game the players will never forget.
"It's a game I will remember forever," senior forward Colton Harer said. "That is especially so, playing along side of one of my best friends and teammates Corey Kriner for the last time against Muncy."
"We are confident," the game's high-scorer Sergei Cole said. "And it just shows how much the rivalry means to us."
Muncy (9-5) had won the last four in this series and has dominated it over the last decade. The Red Raiders played Muncy tough there a few weeks ago but fell apart in the fourth quarter and lost, 72-49. Truthfully, I did not expect anything to change this time.
While Montgomery (3-11) had been improving, Muncy is a District 4 Class A title contender that finished third in districts last year and that was two nights removed from beating Hughesville. All signs pointed to another Muncy win.
Dr. Masse's Top 5
1. Williamsport (14-2)
The Millionaires gutted out a 67-58 win over White Plains, N.Y., Saturday despite playing far from their best game. Williamsport has a chance to regroup tonight against Jersey Shore tonight. Williamsport has won five straight but wants to be peaking entering districts like it was last year, especially since only the District 2-4 Class AAAA champion advances to states this year.
"We'll look at some film and they will have the opportunity to see what they didn't do and what they were supposed to do and make some adjustments," Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. "I focus on effort and execution so those will be the things we will try to address. The effort and execution is what I'm concerned about and we didn't execute offensively the way we had in our last game."
2. Loyalsock (12-2)
The Lancers have lost to only Class AAAA state title contenders State College and Williamsport and face state-ranked Class AA Communications Tech Saturday at the Williamsport Showcase II. That being said, if Loyalsock and Lewisburg (14-1) end up paired in the same bracket of the District 4 Class AA tournament it will be one pathetic joke. The district has to look at other things than just overall records and stop punishing teams for playing strong competition, especially after what should have been a district final between those teams was played in the quarterfinals last season. Ben Sosa keeps getting better inside and had 27 points in blowouts of Central and Southern Columbia last week.
3. Lewisburg (13-1)
Even when he does not score a lot, senior guard Travis Conrad makes a big impact. Conrad averages 17 points per game but does so much more. He is an outstanding defender and had seven assists in a 65-51 win over Hughesville after grabbing 11 rebounds in a 58-36 victory over Selinsgrove.
"Travis is great," swingman Mike Driscoll said. "I've been playing with him since the seventh grade and he's an exceptional player."
4. St. John
Junior center Alize Johnson is having an all-state worthy season and proved it again in Saturday's 72-56 win over surging Millville. Johnson scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dealt four assists. The 6-foot-5 junior is a matchup nightmare because he is tough inside but also can handle and shoot the ball like a guard. Point guard Richard Allen has been a huge addition for the Knights and also is playing well. He had 16 points in that win, plays outstanding defense and allows last year's point guard Jordan Cole to play his natural position, shooting guard.
5. Wellsboro (16-1)
It has to be nice for coach Todd Outman to have a player like Mike Pietropola coming off the bench. The sophomore guard is a terrific shooter and scored a career-high 21 points in Friday's win at Liberty. He is second on team in scoring, averaging 11 points per game. Senior Matt Reese continues excelling in all areas and had eight rebounds, five assists and five steals as Wellsboro took another step toward securing its third straight NTL-West championship.
Player of the Week
Eddie Larcom, Canton
The senior point guard has been on a tear and averaged 25 points in two wins last week. Larcom also is the team leader in assists and had a season-high 29 points in that big Athens victory. Larcom is averaging 24 points during Canton's three-game winning streak.
Game of the Week
Sullivan County at
St. John Neumann
Saturday is the latest installment of an emerging rivalry between last year's two district finalists. Neumann is the only team that has beaten Sullivan after losing to it in last year's district final. If Neumann wins again it takes a huge step toward capturing the HAC-III championship and earning the district's top seed. Expect a great one between teams that reached the state tournament's second round last year.
Montgomery thought otherwise and revealed the beauty of sports. On any given night anything is possible. The Raiders proved it from the start, taking the lead in the first quarter and never letting go. The more Muncy tried to get back in the game, the better Montgomery played and this time it controlled the fourth quarter.
Playing in front a packed home crowd that rocked its relatively new gym louder than ever, Montgomery relished the moment. Cole scored 23 points, Harer added 21, Jake Miller had 11 and every player did his part. This was the kind of moment players dream of having and the Raiders owned it.
"It was a rivalry game so the crowd was intense from the beginning and kept getting louder which helps a ton," Harer said. "Going into halftime with the lead was great but our third quarter is when we usually struggle so it was extremely nice that we stayed focused on the game and not on the scoreboard."
"We controlled their best players. And we didn't give up in the fourth quarter. We finished strong," Cole said. "We play as a team. We all have our strengths and qualities."
That has been evident the last few weeks. Montgomery started 0-9, but has shown marked improvement, highlighting it with the Muncy win. Instead of wilting following the rough start, this team has come together and played its best. Playoffs likely will not happen, but this team is playing for pride and has a lot of it.
"It was great because we finally proved to ourselves how good we can be," guard Michael Alexander said.
The Muncy rivalry is huge to Montgomery athletes, coaches and residents. Any time Montgomery wins a rivalry game between these schools it means a lot. The Indians had controlled the rivalry for years, but Montgomery struck back in a big way.
That night belonged to it and always will.
Despite the Montgomery loss, Muncy is doing some good things. The big question coming into the season was how first-time starters Nick Ring and Teddy Clark would jell with three returning starters after going to states last year.
Ring and Clark are getting better every game and are a big reason Muncy is remains a district title contender.
"Last year it was Ammar (Sabanovic), Dawson (Fox) and Billy (Kolletzki) we were waiting on. Doug and Rijad were ready and we had to wait for those guys," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "This year Nick came out of the gates pretty ready and we were just waiting and then Teddy got ready and he's been doing a great job. It seems like every game he's been stepping it up."
Ring has been dominant, recording 11 double-doubles in his first 12 games and missing 12 straight by just one point. He is averaging 15.2 points and more than 12 rebounds per game while displaying a nice touch inside. The junior is physically imposing and can overpower fellow post players. He also is deceptively quick too and does not slow down a fast Muncy team while also using that speed to get to the basket and finish strong.
Ring was outstanding in a 57-48 win over Hughesville last Monday, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. It was the fourth time in 12 games he had at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game.
"Last year if you put me in for a whole game they would have had to drag me across the floor. This year I can go the whole game," Ring said. "It has come along but it helps to have a point guard like Ammar to get you the ball in great spots to score. He just gets it to me and great spots so I can finish."
Clark knew he was a projected starter in the offseason and spent it doing everything possible to embrace the opportunity. He is a small but powerful guard and can bang away with the bigger bodies underneath, take his game outside or use his speed to attack the basket and set up his teammates.
That whole package was on display against Hughesville. Clark scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added two assists as Muncy pulled away in the fourth quarter. The junior played as well as he has all season in the second half and might have been the biggest reason, the Indians turned a one-point fourth-quarter deficit into a nine-point win over a team that used to own it.
"I went to the weight room and went to all the offseason camps and did all I could to take advantage of the opportunity. Every day I was working to get ready," Clark said. "It's good chemistry. I knew it was going to be good from the start because in the summer we played out on the courts together every day. We were always in contact every day so I knew from the beginning we were going to work well together."
Canton is having its best season in a long time and clinched its first playoff berth since 2001 last Friday when it defeated Wyalusing, 69-53. The Warriors (11-6) are an AA qualifier for the first time this century and need only two more wins to surpass the 2001 team that went 12-12 as the most successful Canton team this century.
Canton has made a huge turnaround just this season, winning 11 of its last 14 games after starting 0-3. The Warriors announced their arrival as a serious playoff contender last Wednesday when they thumped District 4 Class AAA title contender Athens, 67-45. Canton is the only NTL-East team to beat Athens the past two seasons and is only one game behind it in the league standings.
Seniors Emmett Watson and Eddie Larcom are both closing in on 1,000 points and players like Wes Moore and Tim Bassett have been huge on the boards. Everything has been coming together and the Warriors could be a team high seeds do not want to face in the first round of districts.
Sullivan County (16-1) stayed within one game of St. John Neumann in the HAC-III, rallying past Muncy, 44-41, Saturday. The Griffin seniors won there for the first time as point guard Kelby Mullen scored 17 points and helped the Griffins overcome a three-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Sullivan is undefeated on the road and has won seven straight ... Mansfield (10-6) is a win from clinching its ninth playoff berth in 10 seasons. Taylor Hillson scored 20 points and Bo Burleigh had 14 points and 12 rebounds in Friday's 62-45 win at North Penn ... Central Mountain (9-5) has won nine of 10 since starting 0-4 and its only loss during that span is against Williamsport.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.